Article & Photos by James Lapenta
Non-certification workshops are an excellent way for you to prepare for advanced level training and to work on those core skills. A non-certification workshop is similar to an actual class with some important differences.
- There is no card issued at the end of the course.
- They are often tailored to the individual diver.
- They may contain skills and information not normally found in an agency course.
- They are likely created by an instructor and not taught anywhere else or by anyone else.
- They can be created to cover subjects that are normally outside of agency sanctioned courses.
- They may not be taught by an actual SCUBA instructor but by a professional in some area that to be a diver.
- They may cost as much, if not more, than an actual course.
- They may be taught using materials from actual courses or from non-agency sources.
- They may or may not be sanctioned by an agency but you will still be required to sign waivers, releases, and provide a medical statement.
- They may take as little as a few hours or as long as several days.
Let me expand on each point to give you a little more information and the reasons behind each one.
There is no card issued at the end of the course. This is because it is not an actual course taught to agency standards. Many divers who take these courses could not care less about a card. They are looking for skills and knowledge.
They are often tailored to the individual diver. Unlike standard agency courses that are designed to appeal to and fit the average individual, tailored workshops are just that. Time is spent working on specific skills and covering specificknowledge to increase the skill and knowledge of the individual taking the course. They can be so narrow in focus that an entire day can be spent on learning how to back kick for example.
They may contain skills and information not normally found in an agency course. With most agency courses createdto fit the widest variety of people, there are bound to be skills and knowledge left out. There is only so much roomin a book and so much time, in some cases, to cover all the information that should be in a course.
They are likely created by an instructor and not taught anywhere else or by anyone else. In some cases, an instructor or shop will see a need for a workshop to add to the safety and enjoyment of their students or customers. It may be highly specialized knowledge and skills in a particular area that doesn’t actually apply to other locations. It may be an area that particular instructor has extensive knowledge and experience in and wishes to pass on without the hassle of creating a formal course that needs to be approved by an agency.
They can be created to cover subjects that are normally outside of agency sanctioned courses. For whatever reason,some subjects and areas of study are not seen as interesting (or profitable) enough to merit the agency creatingmaterials to cover the subject. As a result, when a student or students express a real interest in formal instruction in those areas it is up to the individual instructor to provide it.
“There are instructors who are permitted to teach certain courses by their agency. It doesn’t mean they can actually teach them and pass on knowledge. I passed on an opportunity several years ago to become an instructor in a certain area. This would have involved attending a day long workshop in the subject area. I later came to discover that more than half of the workshop was on how to sell the course. To me, that is morally and ethically wrong if the newly minted instructor for the class has no previous expertise in the area.”
They may not be taught by an actual SCUBA instructor but by a professional in some area that happens to be a diver.Once you are a certified diver you should not require instruction on how to dive. A tailored workshop is not for that purpose. A tailored workshop is to pass on skills and knowledge in a narrowly defined area that is related to diving. It need not be taught by an actual instructor. There are highly skilled divers that are not SCUBA instructors, who I would seek out long before some of the instructors I have seen that are permitted to teach a subject.
They may cost as much if not more than an actual course. When a class is shorter, does not use official materials, or the person conducting it is not an instructor, it does not mean it will be inexpensive. You are now paying for the knowledge, skills, expertise, and experience the person offering the class brings to the table. That person may have spent thousands of hours and gone to great personal expense to develop those traits. To expect them to offer that level of knowledge at a discount now is unreasonable.
They may be taught using materials from actual courses or from non-agency sources. In order to conduct targeted workshops that are truly valuable, the wise instructor will make use of whatever resources are available. That includes agency produced materials that get the lesson across in the best possible way.
They may or may not be sanctioned by an agency but you will still be required to sign waivers, releases, learning agreements, and provide a medical statement. This is simply part of doing business in the society we live in. Many people, and their families do not want to take responsibility for their actions or those of their loved ones.
The instructor should not be looked at negatively for this. In fact, it shows a level of professionalism and morals that should be admired. It proves they arealso highly ethical in that they are putting safety over profit.
They may take as little as a few hours or as long as several days. Depending on the area to be covered a tailored workshop can involve highly variable time commitments.
In other instances, the student may need to travel to get the knowledge, skills, and expertise. This adds to the time commitment, as well as the financial one,the student and instructor must make. It is not unusual for people to travel hundreds of miles for this type of specialized instruction and thousands of miles journeys are not unheard of when we start getting into highly technical areas with skilled instructors.
Should you elect to take some of this type of training be sure to choose your instructor carefully.
For more information on that and for the full version of this article, pick up a copy of my book, SCUBA: A Practical Guide to Advanced Level Training. Available on Amazon in print and for Kindle!
About James Lapenta
James Lapenta from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, a Diver, dive Instructor, Author and owner of UDM Aquatic Services has been diving since 2004.
He is a Scuba Educators Instructor # 204, SDI/TDI Instructor # 16810, CMAS 2 Star Instructor # USAF0012000204
For more on basic skills and education pick up a copy of either of my books